With so many victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami still residing at temporary shelters, it has become all the more important to make sure that ill evacuees receive proper medical care and that the spread of communicable disease is prevented. Medicines and medical treatment apparatuses in the shelters are in short supply, and hygienic conditions are in an undesirable state.

Infants, young children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to influenza, pneumonia and norovirus infections. Infectious disease, including tuberculosis, can spread quickly in crowded shelters. At the very least, masks and alcohol for disinfection should be distributed.

Shortages of food and water, a lack of exercise and low body temperature can lead to cerebral infarction in elderly people. Those who have lost their dentures can develop pneumonia as their oral hygiene deteriorates. Some people are likely suffering from depression or loneliness because of the loss of their family or communities. Such people should be given counseling.

Not only must acute diseases such as cardiac and cerebral infarction be dealt with, but also chronic diseases such hypertension, rheumatism, inadequate kidney function and diabetes. Medication shortages will exacerbate chronic diseases.

Since doctors and medical workers are busy treating people who were injured or have infectious diseases, they cannot provide enough care to those who are suffering from chronic diseases. Diabetics who do not have access to insulin for a long period of time will be forced to undergo dialysis. It is encouraging that the city of Osaka has announced that it will accept some 400 people who need to undergo dialysis for treatment at some 40 medical institutions. Any other municipalities that can offer medical support should do so.

Nurses and nursing-care workers from all parts of Japan are arriving at temporary shelters to provide health guidance and nursing care. The health ministry and local governments across Japan should expand their help, including making local medical and nursing care facilities more available to evacuees.

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